Municipalities may not cut off power to or block pre-paid meters of tenants with utility accounts in their own names to force landlords to pay outstanding rates bills. This is according to a ruling handed down by the high court in Johannesburg after hearing an appeal in a dispute between the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality and a company, Anzotrax, which trades as Topbet Germiston.
The judges found the Ekurhuleni metro unfairly discriminated against the tenant by cutting electricity to the rented premises due to outstanding property rates owed by the landlord.
“The ensuing litigation became unduly protracted and the municipality’s persistence with the appeal was ill-considered and irresponsible… Spurious arguments on its behalf proposing an unsustainable interpretation were advanced and persisted with in this court,” the judges said.
A punitive costs order was imposed on Ekurhuleni as an appropriate sanction, “as a mark of the court’s disapproval of such conduct”.
An attorney acting for the tenants, Nicola Ross, said this was a fair victory.
“We are happy that the court found that municipalities cannot consolidate random consumer accounts,” she said.
“The two accounts were totally unrelated. The tenants cannot be held to ransom for the landlord’s outstanding arrears on another separate account.”
Read the full story on IOL: Tenant trumps council in lawsuit